Julian Sanchez at the Cato Institute on the renewal of the FISA Amendment Act and the lawless surveillance state:
It’s been almost four years since the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 put President Bush’s warrantless wiretap program on legal footing by authorizing broad, programmatic surveillance of Americans’ international communications. The only thing the public really knows about it so far is that it was almost immediately misused, resulting in “significant and systemic” overcollection of Americans’ purely domestic communications. Subsequent reporting revealed that the improperly “overcollected” communications could number in the millions, and included former president Clinton’s private e-mails. So naturally, the Senate is charging ahead toward the renewal of these sweeping powers without hearings or debate.
…This is a truly incredible state of affairs. We have a vast apparatus for intercepting—and retaining indefinitely—American communications on a mass scale. We are being asked to take it as an article of faith that this is absolutely necessary to the security of the United States, even though similar claims about the original warrantless wiretap program could not be substantiated by later internal audits. The government doesn’t want to have to even defend the constitutionality of this program in front of a judge. And Congress doesn’t seem interested in so much as discussing the question, or making the public privy to so much as the raw numbers involved, before giving the NSA four more years of carte blanche. But hey, look over there, someone tangentially related to a presidential campaign said something dumb on cable television! Clearly there’s no time to discuss trivia like this “vast government database of intercepted communications.”
The ACLU also has a nice round up of links including “the Obama administration’s explanation of the law here” and “the ACLU’s letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee here” and the ACLU’s “lawsuit challenging the law here.” They also explain how the Director of National Intelligence “said it isn’t even ‘reasonably possible’ to estimate how many Americans are swept up in the NSA’s expansive dragnet.”
The Obama administration, as is usual in cases where they disregard the Constitution, promises this mass surveillance comes with strong safeguards and accountability. In reality, the war on terrorism is continuing to be used to justify major infringements on the civil liberties of Americans.